Dire – Tomb of the Fallen

By Rodrigo Flores, Randy Musseau
Roan Studio
System Neutral/"OSR"
Levels 3-5

A desperate ghost, a plea for help, and a forgotten crypt filled with peril and plunder. This is a tale of past conflicts, where blood magic has left a foul and dire aftermath, and time is of the essence.

This 32 page adventure describes a fifteen room linear dungeon. Art & layout heavy, it looks good and is just garbage. Bad descriptions, failed novelist syndrome, linear and annoying, the “adventure” fails because of a lack of understanding of what an adventure should be, from formatting to design. Notable for the map giving me a headache.

Fifteen rooms in 32 pages isn’t QUITE as bad as it sounds, given the art heavy layout. WHile there is the occasional page of text, it’s much more common for art to take a half page or more, leaving but a short paragraph or two on the page. Which doesn’t excuse the product; there’s at least seven pages of intro and I’d say the adventure doesn’t actually start until page fifteen … and ends on page 21ish. We’re  not looking at a content-heavy product here, in spite of the 32 pages.

“Padded” is what I might say if I were polite, and “failed novelist syndrome” if I were being blunt. The first room description contains such gems as “One could feel the passage of time itself upon entering the tomb” and “[the air] which promises to become even more dank as the adventurers move forth.” and then ends with this beauty “This is the threshold to the Tomb of the Fallen; a place of legend, and a place of sorrow. With the entryway on their back, a single dark passage opens up ahead.”

And this ain’t even read-aloud. I get it. We’re trying for something mythic here. To leave impressions. But it’s trying to accomplish that task by loading up on the text. When you load up on the text you’re forcing the DM read the entire room. To stop the game and pause  everyone at the table and read the entire room. And then figure out how to relate it to the party. Room one has three paragraphs of text that don’t actually say much, but the DM must still waste a bunch of time. It’s no wonder there’s so many reports of people playing with their phones; they’re bored!

If this were a book then the passage would be ok. A small chamber carved out of solid rock. Two stone slabs lie in the middle. You feel the passage of time. Moss, grass, weed have crept in where sparse sunlight intrudes. Fresh outside air mixes with the foulness of the chamber.  There, I just used most of the same words the first room did but left out (most) of the garbage “novelist” text. The sense of the place is there. Sunlight streaming in, the last vestiges of the outside giving way to the rock.

I should also note that room one is one of the better room descriptions and most are not that good. There’s A LOT of explaining going on. Embedded backstory and justifications. Room two tells us “The water chamber is a large area that the Gnolls avoid due to the difficulty in getting across and the presence of some form of Water Elemental, that is continuously creating waves along the surface of the aquifer (underground lake).” IE: it adds little to no content to the adventure, instead justifying things and explaining backstory. Some relevant history where the gnolls don’t go in to the room … usually.

“Assuming the PC’s have an adequate source of light, a platform can be seen on the eastern side of the chamber, It’s easy to deduce that a passage extends northwest from there.“  Beyond the fact that this just describes the map, and the usual joke I’d make about quantum platforms, this is a classic example of those an if/then clause writing style. The description is muddying the waters between game play and location description. It lacks any kind of focus, and that’s icing on top of it repeating something that the map shows and needs more explanation. Further, it’s the most basic of information. It’s akin to typing “If the party has a light source then they can see the room floor to the extent their light allows them” in every single room.

The adventure engages in these activities over and over again, providing little in the way of interactivity, beyond gnolls that “being fierce warriors, attack on sight.”

On the subject of “annoying” … there’s an owl that you get to let rob your packs. Food, spell components, odd trinkets. “This is a great way to lighten the adventurers loads and make them more reliant on their surroundings & environment.” Master thieves, they pick pocket as 7th level thieves. If you act aggressive they behave as shriekers, attracting more monsters. If you kill one you get bad luck for d4+3 days. IE: the DM gets to fuck with you and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is bad Bad BAD. This is adversarial play. This is pixies who the DM doesn’t let you deal with. Suck it up and be fucked with and there’s nothing you can do. Uncool.

And on the same subject … the map. I don’t know WHAT is going on with it, but it hurts my head. It’s some kind of isometric thing and I swear to Vecna it’s got some weird Magic Eye thing going on. Every time I look at it it seems like it is upside down and I have to concentrate HARD to make my brain view it with the right perspective.

This is a mega-pass. Little real content and what there is hides.

This is PWYW at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. There’s no preview.


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6 Responses to Dire – Tomb of the Fallen

  1. Ruprecht says:

    Reading your review got me to wondering if modern modules are written to be read, rather than to be actually be played.

  2. Edgewise says:

    “This is the threshold to the Tomb of the Fallen; a place of legend, and a place of sorrow. With the entryway on their back, a single dark passage opens up ahead.”

    These adventures always have such wonderful art and such ponderous text.

  3. I had to take a look since I like art. I don’t mind the map actually. The wilderness map is cool!! The whole art = map is pretty neat, something I wish I could do. The dungeon map is isometric…it can be a little hard to follow and I think could of benefited with a few extra notes on the map–but I don’t hate it. I’m wondering if they had started from the top as the entrance instead of the bottom–if it would of been easier to comprehend since our eyes naturally go to the top left corner to read? Seems like a nit pick, but I did feel like every time I looked at the map, I started at the top then had to go back down to the bottom, even though I knew it started on the bottom?…not sure. I kinda dig isometric maps and think they have a place.

    I’m a big fan of art–and like this art, but agree there are some pics that make too much white space on a page due to how its set up..or makes the layout a little off, or could of been shrunk a bit to fit more writing to the page, or a different piece of art chosen (I’m more into fighting scenes or something strange inside a room then say, a big book). I didn’t have time to read it yet, so no comment.

  4. Ron says:

    The map sounds intriguing to look at. 🙂
    Thanks for the review!

  5. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Art & layout heavy, it looks good and is just garbage

    To be fair, it does say ‘dire’ right on the cover.

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